COWncil Roundup – December 13, 2011

December 22, 2011

The Town COWncil held its final meeting of the year on Tuesday, December 13th, and it was a time of transitions, playing to a packed house. As always, you can see the meeting on MooTube here.

The meeting kicked off with members of the Town’s Trail Committee thanking retiring COWncil member Sue Boynton for all her hard work over the years. After that the Town COWncil certified the results of the November election and swore in the new and returning COWncil members (Members Mason, Romines, Burow, and new District 3 COWncil member Thomas Shanahan). Outgoing Mayor Ron Romines then honored Ms. Boynton’s years of service with a proclamation, noting she has been a member of the COWncil since “Gosh, last century!” – 1999. Ms. Boynton’s 35 years in Woodside, her activism in the PTA and the Woodside Community Theater, her work with the Trails and History Committee, her two stints as Mayor in 2003 and 2007 – and her 615 hours, 39 minutes sitting in COWncil meetings – were all recognized by the proclamation.

The assembled members of the Town applauded Ms. Boynton, and she also received a plaque with a map of the Town’s original trail system and a proclamation from the State Assembly and state politicians Rich Gordon and Jerry Hill thanking her for her work. Ms. Boynton spoke briefly, saying that in a small Town it’s easy to get involved and find your niche, encouraging others to do the same. She said that she is going to miss it and her colleagues, but that her “gut says it’s time to go.” Boynton said she is looking forward to “harassing the trails committee from the other side.” As they left, Boynton’s husband said to the COWncil, “Thanks for giving me my wife back!”

Moving on to COWncil business, David Tanner was nominated and confirmed as the new Mayor, and Anne Kasten was made the new Mayor Pro Tempore, and then outgoing Mayor Romines was also honored for his service this past year as Mayor. The COWncil then went over the Consent Calendar, with COWncil member Dave Burow noting an item that promoted Town Engineer Paul Nagengast to Deputy Town Manager. He said he heartily approved, of the appointment but wanted to make sure Paul got applauded for his promotion.

There was some discussion about the Town finances, and some COWncil displeasure over how the Library building renovation project had gone over budget and become stalled.

Next there were two big and somewhat contentious items. the evening were the public hearing over the Mounted Patrol’s long-delayed appeal of a Planning Commission decision regarding their Patrol Grounds (for details of this issue, please see our article here).

The Mounted Patrol issue had some last-minute drama. The MP’s neighbors and the Patrol had held a meeting with the Town to iron out their differences and drafted more than 30 criteria that the Mounted Patrol would follow to secure their permits and to keep their neighbors happy. But at this meeting, the Mounted Patrol wanted to change one of the criteria – specifically, they wanted the freedom allow people to sleep overnight in trailers several times a year before heading out to rides offsite.

Deborah Gordon, acting as a neighbor and not as a COWncil member (both she and new COWncil member Shanahan had to recuse themselves due to their connection to the matter) said that that was a deal-breaker, as that’s not what the neighbors had agreed to, and she couldn’t speak for the rest of the neighbors. Finally the Mounted Patrol leadership backed down after some tense moments, and the deal went ahead although it sounds as if the Mounted Patrol will be attempting to talk to neighbors about this issue and see if they can get an agreement on this modification in the future.

It struck us and appeared to concern a couple of COWncil members that the decision as to what is required was completely deferred to the neighbors. It is critical that impacts on neighbors be addressed but the ultimate decision must remain in the hands of the persons elected to make these decisions.

Next an appeal of to count an engineered riding arena as paved area coverage at a citizen’s home. The Planning Commission felt its hands were tied and had reluctantly followed the staff determination that gravel and other permeable materials count 100% as paved area. We have written about this important issue before. It has been a year since staff was directed to bring back recommendations. We hope our new Town Manager understands the importance of this issue and takes a more nuanced approach than his predecessor. At any rate, the COWncil did the right thing and approved the project but they stated all kinds of reasons why this was an exception. This issue is critically important to all COWs since counting gravel and other modern materials as paved area makes many homes legal nonconforming.

Following those items, the COWncil covered resolved the issue of certain zonings being inconsistent with the General Plan. It then wordsmithed the Open Space policy about Recreational Uses in the Open Space element of the new General Plan. This wordsmithing from the dais is a dangerous practice. The Town COWncil then adjourned for the year.

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